By Sylvana Rinehart, Certified Concierge Care Advisor
When working with families who request our help in finding the right home for their loved ones, I attentively ask each family member about his or her desires for their loved one moving forward. We go over the senior’s and family’s personal wants, needs and vision of an ideal community. I probe into their loved one’s history and current lifestyle and ask what is important to them. With time and reflection on these experiences, I came to the realization that once the families have expressed their wishes, I can put them into perspective. They generally can be broken down into three major categories: Care; Location and Management. Below are examples intended to illustrate my thought process and clarify how we come together to the same objective in helping the senior in question thrive to the best of his or her ability in the new environment.
Many seniors have lived in homes for decades, some enjoy nice views, and might even have built the home. These are hard homes to leave, and families might request a place with a view, but Dad now has Macular Degeneration and Mother would much rather be busy with social activities and making new friends. Other requests might be a large space for all the furniture and filing cabinets that will “eventually” be culled, but for now they “need to move” with the senior. We know that as we age our world becomes narrower, and activities of daily living take on a larger portion of our day, and our priorities slowly change. The people who help with these activities and provide care 24/7 make a significant impact on the senior’s life, thus having a view might be less important. Caregivers, activities, and food become more important to the seniors than larger spaces and views. However, I do not want to overlook or dismiss that view and space are not an important factor in the search for the right place. I make a mental note while talking about the importance of care, if not for immediate needs, then for down the road.
We are lucky that in the greater Seattle area we have many choices for retirement homes (generally referred to as “Communities”) and Adult Family Homes. Concierge Care Advisors saw there was a need for help in navigating the eldercare system and was founded in 2010. With many options available, initially I am often told that location is not important. Some adult children might want their loved one close to them, but up until now have not visited Mom more than once a month, “but if I have her close to me I will.” This person might not be the power of attorney and might not even have the best relationship with Mom. We are trained to ask who currently in the family is the primary caregiver and who would end up seeing Mom the most. Realistically that is where Mom should be – not in-between two siblings so that they can each go see Mom when they have time. I would love to have a penny for each time a family tells me that distance is not a factor and that they can travel to get the best possible home for their loved one – and ultimately, they chose the closest place to the primary caregiver’s home. After seeing several options, they agree that closer is more feasible and more beneficial for their loved one.
The other important consideration that is not always brought up in our initial conversation but can be implied, is the stability and management of the building or home. I tell my clients that there are beautifully appointed communities and homes, but if the atmosphere is not right for you or your loved one, you will know. It will frequently depend on who is running the organization. In a community it is the Executive Director, and the owner sets the tone in an Adult Family Home. One can feel the atmosphere while visiting. One can immediately sense how things are run – is the staff smiling, are they engaged with the residents or with you as a visitor? Are they welcoming? Do the residents ask you “Are you moving in? We would love to have you here!” Our role as Advisors is to let our clients know about the solidity of the entity that will be receiving and caring for their loved one, even if it is not part of an initial check list.
In sum then, it will be helpful to prepare one’s own check list to share with siblings and other stake holders when appropriate. It is also important to share it with your Advisor. I like to have my clients bring their expectations for what they want for their loved one. Together we talk about these expectations and turn them into priorities; then we almost always reach the same conclusions about how the community choices they make meet those expectations under the umbrellas of Care, Location and Management. These decisions are never easy or black and white, but with thoughtful discussions, my clients can be assured that they will have done the best they can to give their loved one the best options for a safe new lifestyle. They deserve it!